This afternoon I went to my brother-in-law’s property about 8 miles from my house, where he has nice wide open lot, and I set up my N9SAB 40m-6m off-center fed dipole with a portable flagpole (20ft high). I figured the open space would do some good for the signal.
I set up with an inverted V configuration, had my FT-857D with YT-100 tuner and 7ah battery, and even unfolded the 39w solar panel to help the battery.
My goal was to make my first contact on 20m today.
I tuned around on 14MHz and heard a very busy band, with a couple of notable hams blasting through with their high wattage from New York and Michigan. One of them said he was doing a kilowatt. The queue of calls was packed with people trying to get in and get acknowledged.
So this is what a “pile up” is.
I didn’t even want to try to hop in on those conversations. I continued to tune around in the less busy areas, sometimes finding some quiet zones and calling out CQ, but I would get nothing. I also went to 40m and heard traffic there, but again it seemed either to be a net in progress or a pile up.
After doing some tuning, I later tried on tuning around and calling CQ on 15 and 17 meters, and also heard nothing in return. I was starting to get discouraged. I had already spent a good hour testing, tuning, jumping into breaks, calling CQ, and trying to get a response from anybody. (Not to mention the hour of setup.)
Then I switched back to 40m, sweeping up from 7.175 MHz. At 7.240 MHz, I heard the tail end of a conversation with someone coming out of Colorado or Texas. The ham had a very loud powerful signal and said he was winding down for the day. His last QSO was to acknowledge a QRP person running 5 watts out of Idaho. After booming guy signed off, I jumped in with only my callsign to see if either of them could hear me.
To my surprise, QRP Idaho contact came back to me, repeating the KF6 portion asking to repeat the full callsign. I repeated it back a couple times phonetically, and he copied me back. Woohoo! My first “worked another state” QSO! And on the supposedly daytime-noisy 40m band!
The ham I met is W7ZRC Rod from Idaho. That’s more than 400 miles away! He said again he was on QRP of 5 watts, while I was on 20 watts. I told him he was my first ever HF QSO and he congratulated me and said I was doing good and he was sure I’d be doing a lot more HF. I did not get a signal report, but he said he could copy me well. He was coming in around 5×5 or 5×6, which is to say, perfectly readable, but somewhat low signal strength. I explained my setup and he encouraged me on my HF journey before signing off from his QRP test.
So stoked. I finally made a contact. But it didn’t stop there.
I tuned further on 7.288 until I heard a strong signal and a weaker one having a QSO. The strong one was signing off, and the weaker one started calling CQ. As he called out, he said he was finishing for the day and needed just one more contact for a contest. He’d been doing this all year, and he wanted one more to complete some kind of achievement, and whoever responded had the chance to be that lucky final person. Not knowing I was still on 20 watts, I gave my callsign. Much to my surprise he responded “I heard a K6, but nothing else, please try again.” I tried again bumping up to 50 watts. He replied, “I’m sorry it’s very noisy, and I’m wearing headphones too. But I heard K_6 uniform. Please try again K6 station…”
I tried again phonetically.
“I’m sorry, K6 station trying out there. I really can’t copy out of the noise. One last time, let’s try again.”
I went all the way to 100 watts, and tried again slowly. He then copied my callsign back. I just met WD1W Chris transmitting out of Denver Colorado (he explained his call is originally from Vermont).
Chris’s signal was in and out with lots of interference, but I got the most of his conversation and he got most of mine. He gave me a RST report of 33, which is means generally readable, and pretty weak signal. I gave him the same. I told him he was my second ever HF QSO, and he asked if I really said “second ever”. I confirmed. I told him I just made General and have had so many antenna mounting challenges and had been trying for a couple hours thinking my antenna was not working. I explained my setup and my rig. As with everyone else I’ve talked to on the radio, he was extremely encouraging telling me not to blame the radio or the antenna, but that propagation conditions are very poor right now. I thanked him and was elated I reached all the way to Denver (over 800 miles away!).
I suspect because of my 20ft antenna height, I was hitting more NVIS rather than horizontal reach for 40m. I really need to find a solution that is at a lot higher for inverted-V dipoles, preferably 35 feet or higher. (However, 20m should have been better at 20ft antenna height, I just couldn’t get a response!)
I had two more contacts after that. One, I thought I wrote down right as: N6DBG out of March Airforce Base in Southern California, forgot his name. His RST was 5×9. However, later I tried looking him up on QRZ.com and couldn’t find him. So I am not sure who my third contact is.
Before packing up, I thought I’d try one more time on 7.240 MHz. I called CQ and waited a few seconds and was ready to shut down. But right when I hit power off, I heard a voice. So I quickly powered back on, and someone was saying for me to repeat my callsign. This is when I met WB6RDP Tom from San Bernadino county, California, some 350 miles south. We exchanged 59 signal reports and I talked to him a bit about my rig, and he about his Icom setup.
I started breaking things down and packing up after that, completely elated that I had made inter-state contacts on this personal “field day” with my HF radio. It really is a huge rush when all that research, preparation, and setup finally pays off with “faraway” contacts. I put “faraway” in quotes because it’s not the across-the-nation or international DX contacts that people talk about, but it’ll definitely do for my first successes at working other states!